OxyContin users await compensation from Canadian lawsuits
Published Saturday, May 27, 2017 10:20PM EDT
Lawyers are looking for Canadians who became addicted to opioids after receiving legal prescriptions for the painkillers Oxycontin and OxyNeo.
The maker of the painkillers, Purdue Pharma, recently agreed to settle several class-action lawsuits in Canada and will pay out $20 million to anyone who can prove they were harmed after using the drug.
Anyone who took the drug legally between January, 1996, and February, 2017, may be entitled to compensation for injuries.
As part of the settlement, the company "denies all allegations made in the lawsuits, makes no admission as to the truth of these allegations and denies any wrongdoing."
The lawsuit was launched in part by Stephen MacGillivray, a 53-year-old resident of Sydney, N.S. who asked his doctor for help easing pain from a workplace injury. After he was prescribed two Oxycontin pills a day, MacGillivray became addicted to the drug.
"I lost my job of 20 years. A great job," he told CTV News. "The next thing I lost? I lost my family."
He said, when he started taking the drug, he hoped it would take some pain away.
Soon he was taking three pills a day. A month later, he was taking four a day.
When his doctor stopped giving him prescriptions, he began spending his earnings and his family savings, then resorting to stealing to get money to buy the drug wherever he could.
"My morals just went down the drain," he said.
After some four years, and with much family support, MacGillivray got off the drug and onto methadone.
Back in 2007, he helped to launch a class action lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, alleging that the company used deceit in marketing the drug, and failed to warn doctors, pharmacists and patients about the risks of addiction.
Late last month -- nearly 10 years after that legal action began -- Purdue agreed to settle for $20 million. The settlement pleases Ray Wagner, of Wagners law firm in Halifax, which was one of four firms that led the lawsuits.
"We are happy with the results that we have, we're happy that we could provide some comfort," he told CTV News. "The alternative could have been zero. It's not perfect by far and we'll never be able to replace the losses that people have suffered."
So far, more than 4,000 people who claim they were affected have come forward to ask to be included in the settlement. That number will likely go up as more people who were affected by the drug become aware of the settlement.
But injured patients would be seeing all that money. Provincial health care providers are entitled to $2 million of the $20 million in exchange of releasing any further claims against Purdue. Then there are lawyer fees.
The remainder will be divided among patients, meaning the payout could be less than $4,000 per person.
Dr. David Juurlink, the head of pharmacology and toxicology and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says $20 million isn't much.
"This is a drug company getting off lightly," he said.
"Companies, not just Purdue but others, will continue to do things that are questionable and maybe even in some instances illegal because there really aren't substantive penalties for doing so," he said.
As for MacGillivary, he calls the settlement a vindication that his addiction wasn't his fault.
In order for the settlement to become effective, it must be approved by the courts who will decide if the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interest of those in the class action.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip